Oklahoma City Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police battle over new use of body cameras

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There is a fight brewing between Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) officials and the officers’ union on how new camera systems purchased by the city should be used.

With police body cameras becoming a hot topic on the social justice front and many groups calling for more transparency from law enforcement, OKCPD officials say its new $9 million camera system is ready to go.

But leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) say the way those camera will be used has not been worked out.

“When the process doesn’t go your way, you don’t go airing your frustrations to the public,” said Mark Nelson, Vice President of The Fraternal Order of Police 123 about a statement put out by OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley.

It basically says that the city is unable to activate new technology in body and car cameras because the FOP has backed out of a tentative agreement on how the camera would be used.

Gourley also pointed out the union has now filed a grievance against the city.

“We want to be as transparent as possible with everything we do. I just feel that its important for the public to know that their investment in technology we want to get it out there we want to use it but we are not able to do that right now,” said Chief Gourley.

Back in October, the city spent $9 million dollars to upgrade the current camera systems. That directive came out of the 21CP Task Force recommendations released over the summer.

Gourley says the new cameras have better battery life and have features that take some of the burdens off the officer, like switching on the instant the officer pulls a weapon.

“If they are in the middle of a situation where they have to draw their fire arm they don’t want to be pushing a button on a camera,” said Gourley.

But FOP officials say privacy is a big concern. They are worried about the ability for the new cameras to be live streamed and watched remotely by supervisors.

“It’s important for the public to understand the Oklahoma City FOP supports body worn cameras. To the officers and members who must wear these cameras on a daily basis, you know the micromanaging and nitpicking that occurs. We are looking to shore up some of those loop holes so that you can more and most effectively do your job,” said Nelson.

There had been a controversial proposal made by the city and police leaders to stop officers from reviewing footage for 24 hours after a critical incident, but that has been taken off the negotiating table by the city.

OKCPD say it’s time to use their new tools.

“The majority of officers you talk to they want this technology. It protects them, it protects the community, it helps us be transparent,” said Gourley.

“People need to be able to know that they have some privacy at work. There are rules that have to be followed,” said Nelson. “This is a failure of leadership.”

FOP leaders say the grievance they filed could lead to an arbitration hearing.

OKC Police point out the last time that happened, body cams were temporarily shut down. But the FOP says they won that battle 5 years ago, but still negotiated to use body cameras .

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